How do I talk to my husband about his hypochondria?
September 11, 2019 12:13 AM   Subscribe

Every time someone in the household is sick, my husband gets sick too. How can I make him stop?

Married for 15 years (mostly happily), 2 kids.

Every time someone in the household is sick, my husband gets sick too. Kid has strep? His throat is scratchy. I’m down with the flu? He might be running a fever. His inevitable response to a health complaint of any kind by anyone else is a statement about how poorly he’s feeling.

It feels to me like he’s simultaneously making a bid for sympathy/attention and expressing that I shouldn’t count on him for support or help. But I have a hard time calling it on it, because what if he really is sick? (Reader, he’s not. I have tween girls – I can identify pretend sick!)

After all these years, his man-baby tendencies are making me increasingly angry. I can’t keep ignoring and pretending he didn’t say that. I fear that my response is shading into eye-rolling/contempt, which I know is poison for a marriage.

How can I talk to him about this in a way that will make him change this behavior and not get defensive and hurt? I don’t need him to coddle me when I have a cold, just to end the reflexive misery poker.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I mean, maybe this is too obvious, but could you just sit down at a neutral time when nobody is sick? You could add that you're sure that sometimes he too is sick, but that this seems to happen every time, and in any case, changing the subject to himself means he's not giving sympathy to the person who first said that they were getting sick. I think that would be a reasonable request to him, to keep the focus on whoever first brought up symptoms and if necessary bring up his own symptoms later.
posted by salvia at 12:57 AM on September 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Kid: oww, I just stubbed my toe on the bedpost & it really hurts!
Husband: hey that's weird, my toe hurts too!
You: ok can we just concentrate on Kid here for a second? let's come back to your toe later honey


You: hey, it's odd that your toe was hurting right after Kid stubbed their toe. What's that about?
Husband: ...

repeat as necessary
posted by rd45 at 2:11 AM on September 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

Try all the other suggestions first, this is for when you’ve finally had enough. Take your husband seriously. Tell him it’s time he went to to the doctor. Go there with him and explain that he has something very wrong with them - Munchausens. You’re sick of it and you want him to knock it off. Once he realises what munchausens is, hopefully he’ll be embarrassed enough in front of the doctor to stop pulling this ridiculous man baby grab for attention.
posted by Jubey at 3:10 AM on September 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Please don't accuse someone of Munchausen's and/or shame them out of seeking medical care. People have a hard enough time seeking care or being believed in the first place when they genuinely are sick.

Hypochondria generally arises out of anxiety. It sounds like he is hyper aware and anxious when he thinks he may be sick. Are there stressors that would make him getting sick extra bad? Does he not have good sick leave? Is he using this to abscond from responsibilities that pile up when people are sick? Or is it just annoying?

I can't tell from your question what he gets specifically out of "feeling sick", and why it is a burden to you, beyond being irritating.

"Honey, sometimes when we're sick, you say you feel sick too without seemingly being sick. Are you worried about being sick? Do you genuinely feel unwell and need to see a doctor too? It would be helpful when one of us is ill and you are well to be an extra helping hand around the house and to be understanding emotionally and supportive. Can you do that for us?"

Honestly, it sounds like he (and you) should talk to a therapist and/or doctor.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:21 AM on September 11, 2019 [36 favorites]

After my marriage, if I were to face your circumstances, I would give up and split up. This may not appeal to you and that's fair enough, but I have a much lower tolerance level for bullshit than I used to.

Either he knows he's lying and doing it deliberately to get more attention (dumpworthy) or he is not self aware enough to realise his hypochondria is an extra burden on you, the person who is responsible for everyone's comfort (I'm assuming he doesn't get up in the middle of the night to change vomitus sheets) or lastly, and worse, he knows what he's doing and does it deliberately so that he doesn't have to fulfill his parental responsibilities. I invite you to share my opinion with him, and see if he can comfortably and reasonably debate the issues. I suspect you'd receive a full-on "how dare you suspect me of this" totally ironically, forgetting or not realising that if you are sick when the rest of the family is sick, you still give everyone the same level of care.

I was in rehab in group therapy when a man proudly announced that he deliberately loaded the dishwasher wrong so his wife wouldn't ask him to do it anymore. It's a dealbreaker for me. I have x amount of life left and I'm fucked if I'll be persuaded to do more than my share ever again - which is normal for most women. I'd rather be on my own than with a parasite.
posted by b33j at 4:33 AM on September 11, 2019 [48 favorites]

Adults don't get out of caring for children because they're sick. Give him medicine and then responsibility to care for children. At least he can't catch what he already has from them!
posted by cacao at 4:38 AM on September 11, 2019 [37 favorites]

Couple of options I can think of: 1) Ask him how he is right before informing him that someone else is sick. If you've just said you're fine it's harder to immediately respond with "My throat is scratchy". 2) When he comes back with "I might be running a fever too" act like you're taking it seriously, suggest that he skips some household task, attempt to send him to bed etc. In all probability he'll be a little embarrassed and say it's nothing serious, if that happens often enough it might train him to stop doing this. 3) Push him to make some lifestyle changes because "It seems like you're getting sick quite a lot". None of this has to do with questioning whether or not he's actually ill, it just makes the pretending less appealing to do.

In all probability he probably just doesn't physically feel particularly good much of the time for whatever reason and when someone else comes down with an infection or something it's tempting to want to blame it on that. To be honest I'd probably do the same thing your husband does if in weren't for the fact that I've learned to suppress the instinct to say "me too".
posted by tomcooke at 5:53 AM on September 11, 2019 [15 favorites]

It is entirely possible that your husband is an empath... empaths can sometimes feel the symptoms of others in their own bodies. It is often confusing and overwhelming for them especially if they are unaware this is what is happening, and not sure of how to manage it (which can b e done!) It does match your description well, but there are other things you’d expect too if he is an empath, so check into it.

Quick quiz might ascertain if this might be the right direction for your search:

If this does resonate and you want more recommendations I’m happy to post more, but for now a google search should give you lots of tips and reading for support in getting to know this trait if it turns out to be what it is, and then it can begin to feel like a superpower rather than a disability!
posted by sensitivesoulful at 5:57 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

After my marriage, if I were to face your circumstances, I would give up and split up. This may not appeal to you and that's fair enough, but I have a much lower tolerance level for bullshit than I used to.

I'm with B33J. The eye rolling and contempt are already there and frankly he isn't likely to grow up just for you. He still wants you to be his mama. I'm a hypochondriac and I have struggled with anxiety and even as an anxious hypochondriacal child I wouldn't have pulled or sucked attention from my ill siblings.

I'd tell him "I've only got enough mothering for the kids. You're an adult, figure it out." and then ignore him until you're divorc--ahem...I mean until he gets it.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:20 AM on September 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Show him this question and the answers.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:46 AM on September 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you’ve never talked to him about it. If so, and if he’s otherwise a thoughtful and considerate partner, that’s the place to start.

“Husband, something has been really bothering me and I want to talk to you about it because the longer it goes on, the more bothered I am and it’s affecting how I feel about you. I’ve noticed that when I’m sick or one of the kids is sick, you usually also say you’re not feeling well, but you don’t turn out to be sick. This happened when I had a cold last month, when Son had the flu last year, etc. Every time, you mentioned feeling sick too but you never turned out to be sick. I haven’t asked you why you do it, or even if you notice that you’re doing this. I don’t know why you do it, and maybe you don’t know why either. Maybe you’re just really sympathetic when others are sick. What bothers me is that I feel like you’re making yourself the center of attention when someone else in the family needs to be and when you should be helping. I don’t want to assume the worst of you and I hate that I have this feeling about you. But when our kid is sick and we should be taking care of him and maybe even giving him that special attention and pampering that a sick person gets, instead of taking extra care for him i feel like you seek extra attention for yourself, like you can’t stand to be the caretaker and only want to be the person being taken care of. This is even worse when it’s me who is sick and I need you to take on the lion’s share of parenting duties so I can rest and get better. Maybe you don’t think this is a big deal, but it’s a big deal to me. Or maybe you have genuine anxiety that you’re getting sick too, but if so that isn’t a healthy reaction and it’s getting in the way of taking care of the actual sick people, so it’s something you should work on.

What do you think?”
posted by sallybrown at 8:06 AM on September 11, 2019 [17 favorites]

If you want to tackle the overall man-baby situation, probably the communication coaching you'll get from a counselor would be helpful.

If you want to ping just this particular flavor, I would say just ask him for clarification next time. "My throat hurts too." "Can you explain what you mean when you say that? Is this a way of disqualifying yourself from helping or do you want me to tell you to go to the doctor or do you just feel that you are validating others and making them feel better by saying you feel it too? What's the response you're looking for from me?"

The tone of his response may answer the question even more sufficiently than the answer he chooses.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2019 [17 favorites]

I am going to suggest that the answers here suggesting that you should end a 15-year marriage with two children over an issue it's not clear you've even raised with your husband are not proportionate to the issue at hand.

But this is a problem, and you're absolutely right that you do need to address it. I want to echo the suggestion above that you do so when it's not actively a problem. Your mounting contempt is both valid and understandable, but in order to get the outcome you want here, you may have to be more gentle than you feel. Try to imagine how you yourself would want someone to talk to you about a behavior pattern of yours that was upsetting them—not how they would talk to you, but how you would want them to.

This issue does play into unfortunate gender dynamics, but as much as you can, try to treat him during this conversation as the individual human to whom you are married, rather than Yet Another Emotionally Stunted Manbaby—even if, to some degree, that is what he is. Speaking as a man who has done a lot of work on myself to overcome exactly this kind of problem, it can be incredibly discouraging to feel pre-sorted into the Manbaby box, even when I have belonged there.

Try to use "I feel" language to describe the consequences of his actions, and to speak from a place of the affection and respect you have for him when he's NOT being a giant baby. Talk about how you don't want to feel that way about him. Etc.

I would also suggest bracing yourself for one round of defensiveness. I don't think it should be entertained, but I would prepare for a followup conversation after he's had a chance to recover from being told he's acting inappropriately and needs to stop. How he reacts after the wave of "Ouch! My feelings!" will tell you a lot about whether he's hearing you or not.

[Side note: I recently got sternly reprimanded for a pattern of tardiness at work. This was entirely justified, but if at some point during the conversation in which the unacceptability of lateness was impressed upon me, my boss had said even a single word about me otherwise being an important and skilled member of the team, it would have helped me overcome my anxiety and indignation in the next few days. I didn't deserve to hear this, per se, but it would have really helped. This is what I'm trying to get at.]
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:16 AM on September 11, 2019 [41 favorites]

This may be totally out on a limb here, but growing up I was labeled a hypochondriac for the same reasons. When I was 11, though, I found out (through a series of otherwise routine tests that spotted something weird and merited further exploration) that I have an autoimmune condition that leaves me with a weakened ability to fight off infections. When the people around me get sick, I tend to get sick. Even when people around me don't actually feel symptoms from whatever cold they might have, I'll tend to catch it. It certainly made me a little anxious and hypervigilant over the years, but with a little bit of good reason. If you'd like to soften the blow of talking to your husband about this, would you consider asking him to go to a doctor for a referral to an immune systems specialist? At the very least, that shows consideration for what he might be feeling.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:00 AM on September 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Munchausen's (now called Factitious disorder imposed on self) has nothing to do with what the OP's husband is doing. Please do a bit of cursory research before throwing out serious mental disorders.

OP: This is definitely a problem. Please talk to your hubby if you haven't already. Sokka shot first and late afternoon dreaming hotel both have excellent answers.
posted by kathrynm at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

[Folks, please bring it back to constructive suggestions for "how can I talk to him about this in a way that will make him change this behavior and not get defensive and hurt?"]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:08 AM on September 11, 2019

Yeah, Munchhausen's is not in play here.

This is pretty common. It's not empathy. It's a (probably) effective ploy to avoid yucky tasks like dealing with kids' snotty noses, vomit, neediness. QFT: Adults don't get out of caring for children because they're sick.

Sit down with him, discuss the pattern you see, tell him it's not acceptable and not only does he have to pickup the slack, he needs to do some payback for all the years of slacking. don’t need him to coddle me when I have a cold Maybe not, but he can go out and get you hot and sour soup, tom yum soup, and take care of things when you are sick, etc.

Next time he does this, look him in the eye and tell him that until and unless he has a fever/ throws up/ has a hot, bright red throat with a positive strep swab, he had better lift his share of the burden. The phrase I would use is If you are crying wolf, there will be consequences.
posted by theora55 at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I guess I'm a little more blunt than some of the people here, but this seems small enough that you could address it in the moment? I mean, it probably feels really big because you have been silently annoyed about it for years, but the eye-rolling over this irritating personality quirk doesn't have to be contempt, does it?

Next time his hypochondria acts up, can't you just call him on it and say "I'm sure you're fine, you tend to be a hypochondriac whenever someone else says they are sick, now please help me with X" or "oh, stop it, silly, this is about me. You're fine" or "you know, this hypochondria of yours is getting on my nerves. Could you please stop" and let the chips fall where they may?

I don't think you can control the outcome wrt whether he feels defensive or hurt by being called on his behaviour no matter how you do it, but I would personally feel more offended or condescended to if someone tried to have a Big Discussion with me and coddle me through something like this. YMMV. But if you're sick of coddling him, maybe just stop coddling him? He's a grownup, he'll live.
posted by windykites at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2019 [14 favorites]

So I have health anxiety, an actual real anxiety condition, which used to be called hypochondria. So do other people I know. And for some of us, other peoples’ illnesses can trigger it. I have no idea if your spouse is being an asshole in response to actual health anxiety or if he is simply being an asshole. Either way, you need to talk to him.

We truly cannot read each other’s minds. He may have chosen a maladaptive way of exhibiting actual distress; if true, that dude needs treatment, the kind of treatment that really helped me. Or he’s not but he does not know that he is being an asshole, in which case you are responsible for telling him how you feel about his behavior so he can change it or not. And then you can decide whatever you decide after you have been honest with him.

I almost stopped being friends with someone who I had known for 10 years because his behavior was so annoying. And then I realized that that was an asshole move on my part because I had never expressed my unhappiness. I did not say, you are being a jerk. I said, I can no longer do X or Y. I hope you understand.

I’m gonna see that friend later today and I’m excited about seeing him because I really enjoy his company. I can really enjoy his company because I made it clear to him in a calm but firm manner what I needed. Because he valued my friendship, he responded accordingly.

I am not here to yell at you. I am here to say, use your words dearest 0P and see what happens. Tell your spouse that when you are ill, do you need him to step up and take care of you as you step up and take care of him. Even if he has a sore throat. Even if he feels badly. Because that’s what you’ve been doing for 15 fucking years and it’s time that he figured out how to do that as well. Emotional regulation and emotional maturity come very late in life to some of us, but they are important life skills and you are doing your husband as well as yourself a huge favor by sharing your needs with him directly rather than via eye rolling. It’s excellent modeling for your children as well. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:13 AM on September 11, 2019 [14 favorites]

To answer your question:

When daughter says "I'm sick," and Husband says "Ya know, I think I'm not feeling well either," here's what I'd say: "Husband, I'm sorry you may be catching what daughter has. I need your help right now, though. Can you do X, Y, and Z, while I do A, B, and C? If your symptoms get worse, we can re-assess, but right now, I need your help.

When he has his scratchy throat, is it just all talk and mopey-ness, or does he expect you to coddle him? Is he looking for the same care that you're giving Daughter? Does he take to the couch immediately for mollycooddling?

This could be his subconscious vying for more attention from you. (Not blaming you at all! But just throwing it out there that he might not realize he's doing it.)

When you're sick, does he give you the same care and attention you give to others?

In my own relationship, I don't often air my maladies, but if my husband says that his throat is hurting, I might then volunteer that mine, too, has been scratchy for a few days. But that doesn't mean that I'm ready to lay on the couch all day - just a form of commiseration. I'm not a hypochondriac; I just didn't volunteer that info earlier because it hadn't come up.
posted by hydra77 at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

This sounds infuriating if he's deliberately playing sick to avoid the work of helping to care for kids/you/house, but I think people are being unnecessarily harsh if he's just a mild hypochondriac who hasn't been confronted about this.

A lot of people genuinely feel sick when they know they have been exposed to something. Ever get a notice about a lice outbreak at your kid's school, and then *really* notice every little itch on your head for the rest of the day? I think there's a decent chance he just has some health anxiety combined with maybe some genuine symptoms, since a lot of adults exposed to sick kids don't get as sick as the kids but do get a mild sore throat and fatigue, probably just from the immune response to those germs. He might just need to be told in a non-judgmental way that it's very stressful for you when the kids are sick and that you don't have the bandwidth to worry about him as well unless it's truly necessary, so (a) can he please help in XYZ ways and, (b) can he please only tell you if he is truly sick enough that plans need to change (e.g., scheduling a doc appointment, making alternate child care arrangements) rather than just a bit under the weather.
posted by xylothek at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I'm often one of the hardliners here, but no need to go to DEFCON 1 yet if you haven't addressed it with him. I would proceed from the assumption that it's anxiety he needs to address rather than any of the more contemptible explanations, just because it's best to start with the assumption that your life partner is not out to hurt you or worthy of contempt (at least, until forced away from it). Tell him (kindly) that you've noticed this behavior, that it's actively harmful to the family in the moment because it hinders the two of you from helping the actual sick child, and that, if he can't give it up on his own, you think he needs to seek some assistance on dealing with it. His reaction will tell you a lot about whether he's worth working on or not.

(I will admit, having seen this dynamic play out up close before, I'm skeptical--even if it's anxiety, the odds that he will take the grown-up steps of tackling it aren't high...but it's your partner, you need to give him the chance. Contempt is a marriage-killer, so you can't just sit there and stew silently.)
posted by praemunire at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

There have been a bunch of uncharitable explanations thrown out, but I think this will go better if you can avoid making too many assumptions.

I think it's fairly natural, when you know a sickness is going around, to search your own body for symptoms. And people's level of suggestibility varies widely but can be quite high. (Think of the placebo affect. Or have you read about those studies that show some people act tipsy if you give them fake beer?) I bet a lot of us, if we sat here saying "I think I'm getting sick" for a while would start to feel a dull ache in our heads or a lump in our throat or something that might be the sickness coming on. Maybe your husband is highly suggestible.

This could also relate to childhood baggage. Did he happen to have a sibling that was always sick? If something beyond the fairly innocent "yeah I'm feeling a little sick too" is going on, it might be a reaction to childhood events.

This is not to say that you shouldn't address it. You should -- don't let your annoyance build any further. I'd just keep an open mind rather than coming in with a lot of negative assumptions about what's going on.
posted by salvia at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Take him and his word and tell him he needs to go to the doctor. If he gets sick every time anyone in the house gets sick, then he's getting sick 3x more often than the rest of you, this is cause for concern. Instead of accusing him or eye rolling, tell him you're worried about how often he gets sick and that you're concerned about his immune system and then insist he sees a doctor about it.
If he's genuinely just lying about feeling sick, chances are, he'll stop or reduce if he thinks you'll make him see a doctor about it. (Also agree that him feeling ill doesn't get him out of looking after sick kids)
posted by missmagenta at 12:30 PM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

How can I talk to him about this in a way that will make him change this behavior and not get defensive and hurt? I don’t need him to coddle me when I have a cold, just to end the reflexive misery poker.

Here's the thing: you're still doing the emotional labour if you find a way to discuss this without him getting defensive and hurt. And if you succeed in discussing it without him getting defensive or hurt, he may very well decide that it's not all that important to you because if it was, wouldn't you be angry? And if he does it again after that, what's your next strategy?

Given that his behaviour is making you contemptuous of him (fair enough) and if you want to save your marriage (understandable), then as oblivious as he is to the burden he places on you, I think that you need to be as clear as possible, and allow him to suffer the guilt/shame/embarrassment for what he does.

So, I would suggest finding a time and a place when the girls are out and saying, I need to tell you something. I need you to change this. I love you but I can no longer cope with what you do. I need you to believe in my experience of this, because if this continues, I don't know how much longer I can cope with being the only responsible adult around here. And being a responsible adult also means listening to what I have to say, even though you won't like it, and you will probably have difficult feelings around that but I am not responsible for those feelings, so if you have to take a long walk afterwards to clear your head, fine, but I will be very unhappy if you sulk or hold a grudge over this problem WE have, and that because you've delegated the responsibility to me, I've been the one doing all the work on it.

(Because I see the POV of other posters saying going nuclear before talking to him is a bit over the top - but trying to protect him from his emotions of treating you unfairly is still treating you unfairly).
posted by b33j at 3:04 PM on September 11, 2019 [9 favorites]

"Oh good. I don't want to catch it, so since you're already sick too, you can take care of the kids."
posted by Jacqueline at 4:56 PM on September 11, 2019 [16 favorites]

I'm seeing some pretty toxic shaming of mental illness (along with some textbook sexism) in these responses. Yes, sometimes people do fake an illness to get out of their responsibilities. But if anonymous' spouse is in the grips of true hypochondria, this is a mental illness and not a "man-baby" situation. Hypochondria can look awfully "convenient" to people who don't suffer it, like it's a cheat, just as debilitating depression can look like chronic laziness to those who aren't sympathetic.

OP, you start by saying your spouse "gets sick" and then you go on to suggest he's not really sick. Which is it? If he truly gets sick every time somebody else in the house does, he may not be "faking" anything and he may have a lousy immune system. But if these are indeed all psychosomatic illnesses, your spouse needs to talk to a therapist. And you need to tell him so. Hypochondria is apparently one of the most difficult mental illnesses to treat, but at least if he's aware of it he can work to manage it.

If he's deliberately faking illnesses to get sympathy and shirk his responsibilities, that's selfish, immature behavior. But I tend to doubt that's what's going on. If you want to stay with this guy, you need to take a hard look at the situation and figure out if you believe he's running some big con on you, if he's truly getting sick a lot or if he's suffering from psychosomatic illnesses born of hypochondria. The first option is a sign of real trouble in your marriage, but the latter two are things you can work on together.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:51 PM on September 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Here's the thing: you're still doing the emotional labour if you find a way to discuss this without him getting defensive and hurt. And if you succeed in discussing it without him getting defensive or hurt, he may very well decide that it's not all that important to you because if it was, wouldn't you be angry?

Thank you - at the expense of bristling against the question of "how can I talk to him so he understands and changes".... in a patriarchal-modeled marriage (you might not be in one but he might!) there will be no "right" way for you to communicate this with him.

Like others have before you, you might try crying because it impacts you emotionally and you're frustrated. You might try a soft, compassionate and carefully calibrated conversation when you're not in the moment and the stakes aren't high (but then you're in the paradox outlined by B33j above). You could try ignoring him. Tough love Dr. Phil Style. Nagging. You could get couples counseling (like others have before you) and get a third party to try to translate your needs (a responsible partner during times of sickness) into something he might actually hear and process because it's coming from a stranger's mouth instead of yours and it's harder to dismiss. You could go around and around in circles... but I highly doubt this is something you can change.

Even the reformed self-diagnosed "man-babies" (sorry for the term) in this thread are trying to get you to make your need nicer, smaller, more considerate and less hurty with your words and complicated messy feelings that are almost assuredly going to make him feel unjustifiably defensive because that's the default position to having the power to be the arbiter of your relative sickness and marriage's reality.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:50 AM on September 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Seconding late afternoon dreaming hotel.

My friend gets sick whenever anyone else around her does and it's a result of an IgG deficiency in her blood. He should consider an immunoglobulins blood test. It took her 10 years to get it figured out and now takes 4 needles twice a week. She feels so much better.

Not saying that's your situation, however, given the sensitivities he may want to get it checked out.
posted by KathyK at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2019

Is the underlying issue for you the complaining and kvetching per se, or a genuine disengagement from the household or your kids or what have you? A lot of posters seems to assume the latter is going on based on (I am assuming) when you wrote that it feels he is "expressing that I shouldn’t count on him for support or help"...

If he is not providing care or support or not stepping up, that seems to be what you should focus on: that being minorly ill or thinking you are vaguely ill ends up having an impact where you have to pick up the slack, give a clear example or two, and that you feel in these moments. He will in that moment or soon after reveal himself to be attentive and responsive to what is a legitimate expressed need, or he will not, and you can go from there. (& maybe he resolves it or you find out he has illness anxiety or what have you!)

A question on my mind is whether this question is in effect shorthand for other dynamics or problems in your relationship, per your budding contempt and indeed the reaction of many posters here converging on the manchild label. That might inform you to have a very different conversation.

(If it is being annoyed at him complaining but he still does the dishes, hangs with the kids, et cetera I got nothing as this is like Greek to my emotional reactions and defer to other posters. :) )

posted by Keter at 1:38 PM on September 12, 2019

I think it's worth mentioning that you've noticed he gets sick very easily and that he may want to be in charge of disinfecting the house more often, things like running alcohol or bleach cleaning spray on doorknobs, light switches and other things people touch a lot. (This could help solve if he either is getting sick or thinks he is. If he's faking, it shows him you've noticed and would like him to do some extra work.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:04 PM on September 14, 2019

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